State joins fight to raze former St. Joe's hospital

Staff report


The city of Warren and the state want the old St. Joseph Riverside Hospital gone from the West Side.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Mayor William D. Franklin, and city Law Director Greg Hicks have filed a lawsuit against the owners of the vacant former hospital to require demolition and reimbursement of costs to the city.

The lawsuit was filed by the attorney general on behalf of the city and Warren Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Pinti.

“The refusal of the owners of the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital to maintain their property and demolish it after it had been condemned exhibits egregious neglect, which must be addressed,” said DeWine.

“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has assisted cities in collecting the costs of demolition from grossly negligent property owners, and I am pleased to partner with the city of Warren to help combat blight and make this neighborhood safer for Warren families.”

Hicks added: “The joint inter-agency cooperation in issues such as this help us to exponentially increase our resources for the betterment of our communities.”

A lawsuit was filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court against Euro-American Finance Network, Inc. and Ljubica Stefanovic, all of Leesburg, Fla., who own the former hospital property at 1300 and 1307 Tod Ave. NW. The suit also named Slavoljub Stefanovic, president of Euro-American and Ljubica’s husband, also of Leesburg, as a defendant.

Despite being cited for code violations, the owner took no action to address the violations or demolish the property. After receiving notice Jan. 30, 2013, that the property needed to be demolished, the owners took no further action.

The defendants also didn’t appeal the Jan. 30 order within the 30 days provided, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to order the demolition of the property, declare then defendants responsible for costs incurred by Warren in demolishing the property, and reimburse Warren for costs associated with the previous demolition of a separate structure and providing public-safety services at the property. The lawsuit also seeks interest and costs.

The property is a “serious safety hazard and a public nuisance,” the suit says. “Serious injury and even death may occur to persons who would enter the premises,” the suit says.

DeWine has worked with local jurisdictions on collecting demolition costs from negligent property owners as a supplement to the Demolition Grant Program created in February 2012. The program helps stabilize and improve communities by removing blighted and abandoned homes with funds from the National Mortgage Settlement. While an exact total of abandoned homes is not available, conservative estimates place the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio in need of immediate demolition at 100,000.

The lawsuit is assigned to Judge W. Wyatt McKay.

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